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James D. Breckenridge (1926-1982) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/4/3

Scope and Contents

The James Breckenridge Papers, filling 23 boxes and spanning the period 1924-1983, are arranged in eight subseries: biographical materials, education files, correspondence, teaching files, research and consulting files, professional organizations files, speeches and papers, and publications.

Biographical materials include curricula vitae, clippings, news releases, obituaries, and various records pertaining to Breckenridge's homes, travels, and finances. Included are several clippings, letters, and questionnaires relating to Breckenridge's former home at 2420 Harrison Street in Evanston, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The education files contain notes, papers, and related materials from Breckenridge's undergraduate and graduate training. Drafts of his doctoral thesis are located here.

General correspondence includes letters, both incoming and outgoing, mainly pertaining to publications, travels, teaching, and speaking engagements. Breckenridge's correspondence with Erwin Panofksy is located in Box 9, Folder 19 (Sept. 23, 1958, Jan. 6, 1959), Box 21, Folder 8 (Jan. 3, 1952- April 23, 1957), and Box 17, Folder 3 (Nov. 26, 1966). Subject correspondence relates to several of the institutions where Breckenridge had served prior to his appointment at Northwestern. Correspondence relating to specific travels, publications, friends, and colleagues also is filed here.

The teaching files fill about four boxes and embrace lecture and reading notes, schedules, syllabi, grade sheets, and, frequently, student papers. Some correspondence, papers, and grade sheets relating to graduate students are included with the teaching files.

Research and consulting files represent a major component of the Papers and contain numerous grant proposals prepared by Breckenridge as well as a small amount of correspondence pertaining to proposals evaluated by Breckenridge. Also found here are materials relating to art exhibits and competitions for which Breckenridge served as a judge. Breckenridge's corporate consulting and service on behalf of the Evanston Arts Center and the Municipal Art Commission of Evanston are documented in these files.

Most of the materials in the professional organizations files pertain to the Midwest Art History Society and Breckenridge's service as a Society Officer.

The files relating to speeches and papers that Breckenridge presented at professional meetings include both speech and paper drafts and pertinent correspondence.

The bulk of the Papers relate to Breckenridge's publications. His major book, Likeness: Conceptual History of Ancient Portraiture (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969), is represented by several drafts and considerable correspondence and notes. The text for his monograph, The Numismatic Iconography of Justinian II, an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation, is represented here in draft and page proof form. The Age of Spirituality, the catalog of a major exhibition mounted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, includes many entries prepared by Breckenridge. The wide range of themes addressed in his articles is well documented and often represented by texts, correspondence, and reprints. Many of Breckenridge's reviews are included here. Finally, during the early and mid-1960s, Breckenridge wrote a series of weekly articles on art criticism for the Chicago American, a similar series for Chicago Scene magazine, and numerous articles for the Chicago Tribune. These articles are found at the end of the publications subseries.

Addition, Box 23

This addition to the James D. Breckenridge Papers, comprising one folder and spanning the period 1975-1984, consists of Breckenridge's correspondence. The correspondence is arranged chronologically by date and relates primarily to Breckenridge's research and travel plans.


  • 1924-1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires 48 hours advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection. Teaching materials (Box 5, Folder 12 through Box 9, Folder 19) may be used only with permission of the University Archivist. Box 23, Folder 12 may be consulted only with permission of the University Archivist.


23.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



The James Breckenridge Papers, spanning the period 1924-1983, contain: biographical materials, education files, correspondence, teaching files, research and consulting files, professional organizations files, speeches and papers, and publications.


The James Breckenridge Papers, spanning the period 1924-1983, contain: biographical materials, education files (arranged by date), correspondence (general correspondence arranged by date; subject correspondence arranged by topic), teaching files (arranged by institution and course designation), graduate students (arranged by surname), research and consulting files (in chronological order), professional organizations files (alphabetically arranged, by name of organization), speeches and papers (arranged by organization), and publications (books and catalogs, newspapers, and miscellaneous).

Method of Acquisition

These papers were donated to the University Archives by the Department of Art History as Accession #83-189.

Related Materials

Departmental records dating from his tenure as chairman of the departments of art and art history may be found in University Archives' Series 11/3/3/1, Records of Department of Art, and Series 11/3/4/1, Records of the Department of Art history.

Separated Materials

Seventeen photographs have been separated to the University Archives' Photograph Collection. Approximately one linear foot of reports and related materials pertaining to Breckenridge's work as a departmental chairman have been added to the Archives' general reference files for the art and art history departments.

Processing Information

William K. Beatty; October, 1984 – March, 1986.
Guide to the James D. Breckenridge (1926-1982) Papers
William K. Beatty
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US